One of the surest ways to trouble for a person or a society, and one of the most common aspects of the problems of our times, is the suppression of natural feeling. Now, by nature I tend to be a rather restrained person myself when it comes to the expression of feeling, something that may seem unusual to those who only know my relatively impassioned text and do not know my much more restrained personal emotional affect. When I speak of the suppression of natural feeling, I do not speak of the restraint of the demonstration of that feeling, but I speak of the active attempt to deny the existence and to wipe away the existence of feeling. There are many cases where the suppression of natural feeling has caused considerable harm in our contemporary society and I thought it would be worthwhile to at least tease at the subject and explore why it is that such a thing does such harm to us and then to others.
Somewhat controversially, I would argue that racists, sexists, and the like are superior to the woke when it comes to morality, even if they have far to go to become truly moral. To be woke is to suppress one’s natural feeling of seeking the interests of the self. So a woke man claims to be a feminist because he lacks a natural self-respect for what it means to be a man. The same is true for a white woke activist who believes all kinds of lies about systematic racism and white privilege. These people suppress their natural feeling of self-respect and dignity and thus they cannot truly respect or honor anyone else else as themselves because of their self-hatred and self-loathing. In contrast, even those whose self-love has gotten out of hand at least have the basis for moral advancement and honoring others because it simply takes the development of empathy for this to occur. To the extent that we naturally respect ourselves and feel ourselves worthy of honor and respect and show gratitude and appreciation for the cultural and intellectual and moral achievements of others that have allowed us to live well beyond what we deserve personally, we can use our moral imagination to see how other people would feel the same way and treat them as we would wish to be treated with respect and consideration. However hard it is to develop empathy for those different from ourselves, it is easier by far to do that than to rebuild an entire infrastructure of fond self-feeling and self-awareness upon which good feelings for others can be built.
In order to live in the city, one has to suppress a great deal of natural feeling in order to cope with it. Frequently one has to suppress natural curiosity in one’s neighbors out of a sense that one does not really want to know what one’s neighbors are up to. One has to suppress a certain degree of sorrow at the mass of homelessness that one sees because it is all too easy to mistrust the motives of panhandlers who probably make more money than the generous if naive souls who donate to them. To live life with a sense of tranquility it is frequently necessary to avoid that which annoys or irritates us, so we choose to avoid those people who provoke us to responses that we regret, and avoid those places, be they real or virtual, where we are confronted with that which we do not want to address. This sort of self-censorship allows us to avoid crippling and unpleasant feelings about the unpleasant nature of our contemporary reality, but it does not do anything as far as equipping us to be able to deal with it. Our natural feelings tell us that much is wrong, but our rational capacity tells us, rightly if pessimistically, that we can do little about it, and cynically may even tell us that it is foolish to try, lest we merely be barbarians destroying our existing flawed society without having anything better to offer up in its place, as is so common among our activist class.
The suppression of feeling manages to confront us in many areas of life. A pro-abortion woman must suppress her natural feeling of maternal care and fondness for an unborn child to consign it to a brutal death by viewing it as a mere clump of cells. A political activist who has family members of differing political worldviews must suppress natural feelings of respect and honor for parents and replace it with a condescension that the child supposedly is more knowledgeable and aware about the world than less radical elders. Even ordinary people who make no claims to being extremist activists of any kind must frequently suppress their natural feelings in order to get along with others because seemingly every aspect of our contemporary lives is greatly politicized. In order to live at peace with others, we must frequently bite our tongues and not say that which we really think and feel because we know it would offend, even when we are dealing with people who lack the same degree of restraint towards us. At some point, we simply don’t wish to keep up the pretense and so we become more isolated because there are simply fewer people around who do not provoke us to irritation and frustration. And such is life in our contemporary world. Our suppression of natural feeling leads us to intense self-loathing in some cases, to great isolation in others, to numbness and a lack of human compassion and empathy towards others as well as a general desire for escape from the burdens and responsibilities of life. Little good comes from these things.